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Italy: a trip rich in culture and food

To the point A dream destination for history buffs and food lovers alike, here are our tips for a vacation in Italy!

Italy, one of the most visited destinations in Europe, is a country that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Cinque Terre 3

Italy: the must-sees

Rome

Since the beginning of the history of the first civilizations, Rome is considered the cradle of the Western world.

The capital of Italy is full of historical monuments and amazing restaurants. What could be more romantic than a walk in front of the Trevi Fountain and dinner in the beautiful Trastevere district?

Trevi 2

Rome is also the gateway to the Vatican, the headquarters of the Catholic Church. The architecture and the art decorating the walls and ceilings of St. Peter’s Basilica make it one of the most impressive buildings in the world.

St Peters

Whatever your interests and budget, a visit to Rome is a must. This city is sure to charm you.

Florence and Tuscany

Florence is one of the most famous cities in Italy and an excellent place to base yourself and visit the area. In fact, Tuscany is a place for wine and food lovers.

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The architecture of Florence puts Renaissance art on show. Plus, if you love a good art gallery, you will be delighted by Florence. Its panoramas are also magnificent.

Florence

This city is also a popular destination for student exchanges, so the downtown core is very active on evenings and weekends.

Pisa

Located in Tuscany, the city of Pisa is a common day trip from Florence. It might be cliché, but taking a picture where you’re holding the leaning tower of Pisa doesn’t hurt anyone and it’s a lot of fun.

Pise

Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre region includes five beautiful coastal villages in northwesternItaly: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. This area is one of the most visited places in Italy.

Cinque Terre

These five villages constitute a national park and are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

A hiking trail connects the “lands” with each other and this walk is amazing!

Cinque Terre 2

Milan

Milan is a popular destination in Italy mainly because it is recognized as a world capital of fashion.

However, Milan has much more to offer than just luxury clothing. In fact, Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting, The Last Supper is located inside the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

Next, the sublime Cathedral of Milan is a Gothic architectural masterpiece.

Milan

Verona

Between Milan and Venice, you can stop in Verona for a visit to the Casa di Giulietta. This residence didn’t inspire Shakespeare and Juliet is not based on a real person.

Verone

Although this house and the city of Verona have no connection with the fictional story of Romeo and Juliet, one can feel the emotion of the people who decided to associate (consciously or unconsciously) this place with Shakespeare’s work.

Vérone

Venice

The city of Venice is one of my favourites in Italy: with its canals, gondolas and picturesque little streets, it is one of the most romantic cities in the world!

To get a good feel for Venice, you should put away your phone and get lost in this Italian labyrinth. It’s magical!

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In recent years, overtourism has become a problem in Venice; especially with cruise ships bringing in hordes of visitors. That being said, this Italian treasure should still be included in your travel plans. It’s not difficult to find some peace and quiet in Venice and have a great experience.

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Naples

In the south ofItaly, we find the city of Naples which is recognized as the birthplace of pizza.

Naples is a good place to start a trip to the Pompeii and Amalfi Coast regions.

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Pompeii and Herculaneum

These two cities were tragically destroyed by a volcanic eruption. When Vesuvius exploded, a rain of ash quickly buried Pompeii and Herculaneum. This resulted in these ruins being very well preserved.

From an archaeological point of view, it’s a marvel to be able to discover these communities that have been frozen in time.

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Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast

The town of Sorrento is a good place to start before exploring the Amalfi Coast. It is the ideal starting point for a road trip with breathtaking views.

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Capri

Capri is an island off the coast of Sorrento with beautiful beaches, great seafood restaurants, and hiking trails.

The famous Blue Grotto is a must-see in my opinion. Although this attraction is very touristy, it was impressive to see the light making the water so blue.

Capri

Here are some ideas for activities suggested by Viator

Organize your trip to Italy

When to visit Italy?

The best time to discover the vast majority of what Italy has to offer is during the spring and fall, i.e.

  • mid-March to early June
  • from September to November

The weather in Italy will be ideal for exploring the country while avoiding the crowds. This destination is popular for European and foreign holidaymakers; most of the tourist sites are full during the summer season and it is very hot!

In the South of Italy, the climate remains mild even in winter.

Carnaval de Venise
Special events

February: Carnival is the event of the month. It is celebrated nationwide with masquerades, colourful costumes, and confetti. The most famous festival is the Venice Carnival where you can see St. Mark’s Square flooded with people.

April: Easter week is highlighted by several events with the Pope, including the Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square.

How long does it take to visit Italy?

Italy is a very culturally rich country and it is impossible to see everything in one trip; it is better to separate your visits by region.

For a “little bit of everything in Italy” type of vacation, the following 3-week itinerary may work for you.

Transportation Places visited
Flight between Montreal and Milan Visit Northern Italy: Milan, Verona, and Venice
Train between Venice and Florence Visit Tuscany: Florence, Bologna, Pisa, Siena
Train between Florence and La Spezia Visit to Cinque Terre
Train between Florence and Naples Visit to Pompeii and Herculaneum
Train between Naples and Rome Visit to Rome
Flight between Rome and Montreal

The Amalfi Coast, Sicily, Puglia, etc., could be the focus of other separate trips!

Although you may be tempted since everything is so close, you shouldn’t try to fit several places in the same Italy trip.

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How to get to Italy?

Travel points

When we visited Italy, we paid for our flight in cash, as this was not the best use of our points after we calculated their value.

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It’s very convenient to have a bank of travel points that you can use for various expenses, like the NBC Reward Travel Points from the National Bank World Elite Mastercard®. These points can be earned with the welcome bonus and look after a significant part of the airfare!

Through the NBC Rewards à la carte portal, you can use your NBC Rewards points directly on the purchase of your airline ticket at the best redemption rate.

Also, I was able to take advantage of the card‘s travel insurance and use the travel credits for our seat selection.

Aeroplan points

Air Canada operates direct flights between Montreal and Rome, Milan, and Venice. Due to the pandemic, some flights were temporarily suspended but will resume for the summer season.

You will need approximately 35,000 Aeroplan points for a one-way trip to Italy.

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Since this flight is operated by Air Canada, you can benefit from a free checked bag for you and 8 people on the same reservation!

How to get around Italy?

Public transportation

Like any European country, Italy is very well served by public transport. The country is relatively small so it is easy to get from one region to another on the train.

There are several trains connecting the major cities; the fare for a connection depends on the class of service as well as the speed of the train.

These train tickets can be purchased with a credit card. By using a no-conversion-fee credit card like the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®, you will save 2.5% on foreign currency transaction fees. Plus, you’ll be able to earn points on your purchase!

Within the cities, it is usually possible to explore all the sights on foot or by public transportation.

We travelled in June and bought our long-distance train tickets on a day-to-day basis.

Car rental

A trip mainly limited to the major centers can be done easily without a car rental. In fact, you can’t drive around the historic center of Florence and the traffic in Rome can be daunting.

However, to discover certain regions in Italy, a rental car is recommended and makes travel much easier. For example, you will find it difficult to get to the southern part of Salento or to visit Valle D’Itria in Puglia without a vehicle.

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Also, families can save money by travelling by car since the cost of train tickets increases with the number of people.

To reduce the cost of a car rental in Italy, you can easily earn TD Rewards points with the TD First Class Travel® Visa Infinite* Card and make a reservation on the Expedia site for TD. In addition to being able to use your points, the choices are numerous and the prices are comparable to other platforms.

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It is recommended to have an international driving license if your license is not from a European Union country. You can still rent a vehicle without an international license, but you are at risk of fines if you are stopped.

Where to stay in Italy?

Independent hotels

Italy is a very touristy country and the rates follow the supply and demand curve. The price range of these hotels varies quite a bit. However, it is still possible to find reasonably priced accommodations on third-party sites such as Booking.com

Hôtel indépendant italie

House rentals

Italy is the perfect place to spend a week or more to relax and soak up the Dolce Vita. The opportunity to rent a house with VRBO for example.

AirBnB

If you can’t find hotels within your budget, there are many AirBnBs available in Italy; these are often well located near the action.

Unlike hotels, an AirBnB can be more convenient for people and families who need a kitchen.

Airbnb italie

Marriott Bonvoy Hotels

In Italy, Marriott Bonvoy hotels are available in most of Italy‘s major cities. There is something for every budget as the country plays host to several of the hotel’s various chains.

For example, some establishments are very affordable with points or money like this hotel in Rome.

Marriott standard Rome

In fact, since the prices are similar to independent hotels, you will actually have an advantage with Marriott Bonvoy as you can accumulate elite nights to achieve a certain status or receive benefits if you already have status!

You can also indulge in a little luxury at a good price (using points) like the JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa.

Finally, many hotels have rates under 35,000 points which allows for free night certificates to be used when the cash cost can be high. These certificates are earned with the Marriott Bonvoy®American Express®* Card or the Marriott BonvoyBusiness American Express® Card.

So, you can stay at hotels like these simply by renewing and paying the annual fee of $120 or $150 depending on the card.

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Guide to visit

Ulysse Guides offer many guides in french about Italy. Here is our selection, the collection book “Italie, 50 itinéraires de rêve” :

Conclusion

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!

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